Seaford girl raises funds to fight diabetes in honor of grandfather

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Diya Hathiramani, 7, is unlike most children when it comes to celebrating birthdays.

Instead of hosting a party with cake, balloons and gifts, Seaford residents Diya and her mom, Pooja Hathiramani, hosted a lemonade stand, and raised roughly $800 for the American Diabetes Association, headquartered in Arlington, Va., whose mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes while continuing to seek a cure.

“That’s what she always wanted to do as a party,” Pooja said. “She’s always wanted to have a lemonade stand and just sell lemonade, because she’s a big lemonade fan.”

Diya turned 7 on June 5, and the lemonade stand was open three days later.

Pooja said that when she and Diya originally discussed where to donate the money, Diya considered St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in New York City, as well as other organizations. “[We thought], ‘Well, Grandpa passed away recently, and Grandpa fought a long battle against diabetes, so why don’t we donate all the money, and all the proceeds, to the American Diabetes Association?’”

Diya’s grandfather, Bhagwan Sakhrani, who lived in Springfield, Va., was 72, and had had diabetes for more than 40 years, when he died in December.

A few of her friends — Alana Redlefsen, Chloe Callinan, EllaRose Mancuso and Stella Sowa — helped her sell the lemonade in front of her house on Harland Road.

Her mother said that at Seaford Manor Elementary School, where Diya is in first grade, parents come and read to the class on their children’s birthdays. When Pooja came to Diya’s class to read “Olivia Opens a Lemonade Stand,” by Kama Einhorn, mother and daughter gave the students homemade coupons for the lemonade stand that entitled the bearers to free drinks.

Diya charged $1 per cup, but her customers ended up donating more money to support her cause. “People were giving 20s, and a lot of people gave 10s and fives,” she said. “People were very, very generous and very, very kind.”

Roughly 150 people patronized the stand, according to Pooja. She and Diya created signs that they posted in several neighborhoods, from the school to their house. “I think that kind of helped get a lot of the crowd that we did get,” she said. “I had to run in [to the house] like three or four times to go make more lemonade.”

Pooja said she also advertised the event on the Seaford Moms and Dads Facebook page. “I didn’t know how many people to expect, but we ended up getting quite a few,” she said. “Even her classroom teacher came all the way from Melville.”

In addition to the lemonade stand, the Hathiramanis set up a tent where people could snack on chips and salsa. The most touching part of watching her daughter organize the event, Pooja said, was at the end of the day, when she and Diya were counting the money. “She went to her piggy bank and donated $100 of her own to put into the pile,” she said, her voice choked with emotion. “That was the most cherished thing. I said ‘Honey, you don’t have to do that,’ and she said, ‘No, I’ll do anything for my grandpa.’ That really touched my heart when she did that.”

Diya said that her favorite part of the day was hanging out with her friends. She also enjoyed when her mom gave her and her friends henna tattoos in between serving customers.

“To keep them busy,” Pooja said.